You may have noticed in my last post I describe bursting into tears in front of a painting. Crying is not an unusual activity for me – I can cry listening to music or watching a film or reading a book. But this is usually because it triggers some sad memory or even a happy one.
My bursting into tears in front of a painting on two separate occasions was an altogether different experience. In both cases I had never seen the painting before. So this was nothing to do with memory. It was the pure force of the art and the instantaneous emotional effect it had on me.
And there is a name for this experience! Stendhal syndrome :
‘Stendhal syndrome is a psychosomatic disorder that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to an experience of great personal significance, particularly viewing art.’*
Isn’t this just the most wonderful description? Clearly my version of the syndrome was positively mild – no hallucinations. But it did not feel mild at the time. My deep emotional response was a recognition of humanity in both paintings and the tears were a release at knowing that I was not alone.
Here are the 2 paintings which have cause Stendhal syndrome in me:
Have you ever experienced the Stendhal syndrome?
*According to Wikipedia the syndrome is named after the 19C French author Stendhal (pseudonym of Marie-Henri Beyle), who described his experience with the phenomenon during his 1817 visit to Florence in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio.